Why such disinterest in research?
The national rhetoric of prioritising high-quality education seems to be going nowhere. While insufficient research funding has often been cited by academics as a reason for the lacklustre state of higher education in Bangladesh, a recent report by this daily revealed that our eminent Dhaka University has, ironically, failed to fully use even the measly funds. The DU authorities received around Tk 36.22 crore as research allocation in the last four fiscal years, of which Tk 9.59 crore has been left unused. In FY2020-21, nearly two-thirds of this amount was underutilised. The lack of learning incentives and failure to expand our knowledge base are damaging and beyond the pale.
While administrators and some academics point to the lack of interest among faculty members to make use of the grants, which are comparatively small in nature, others say that the process of acquiring the allocated funding for projects is mired with time-consuming red tape and mismanagement. As a result, many opt for NGO or external funds instead. The situation calls for the DU authorities to do some soul-searching and develop a proper scheme to mitigate disinterest among its faculty members. Reportedly, a section of teachers opposed the university's decision last year of mandating PhD degrees to get promoted as associate professors and professors. It is shameful that such an attitude towards education exists in the corridors of our oldest and largest university.
The characteristic of DU as an educational institution has also been waning at the bottom of worldwide rankings, as innovative research studies are required to increase the excellence quotient. Bangladesh suffers from the trap of low learning and increasing cases of "brain drain," and the lack of proper research capacity in our universities is one reason why. Experts have previously called for a paradigm shift to research-based learning in higher education to affirm our ambition towards a knowledge economy. How much longer do we have to rely on foreign scholars because our own university scholars cannot provide the studies needed to understand the nitty-gritty of our own nation? DU must set up a proper state-of-the-art research infrastructure to buttress its reputation.